Eagles Wake-Up Call: Duce Controls RB Rotation
Eagles fans and fantasy owners alike are eager to know how the playing time between DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will be divvied up. The truth is, that answer does not yet exist.
The man responsible for handling the rotation is Duce Staley. In a clear sign of trust, Chip Kelly defers to his running backs coach to decide who is in and for how long during the course of a game. Staley explained his approach to that responsibility.
“I just go in with an open head and make sure I don’t get caught up in the last game,” he explained. “I try to get a good feeling of what’s going on out there and then I go from there. I think there’s too much put into it when you start sitting down and writing out a plan. You get in trouble that way.”
So it’s all by feel?
Staley has past experience to lean on when it comes to handling such a situation. Back in 2003, he shared carries with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter as part of the three-headed monster. The ball was distributed pretty evenly, with Buckhalter getting 126 attempts, Westbrook 117 and Staley 96. But as Westbrook mentioned back in August and again during 97.5 The Fanatic‘s Eagles roundtable on Thursday, the dynamics are different. Buckhalter was coming off an ACL tear, and Westbrook — entering Year 2 — was not yet established. These backs are. Murray has averaged 20 carries per game over the last two seasons. Mathews has totaled over 5100 yards from scrimmage in his career and averaged 212 carries per season over his first four years.
“[T]hese guys have been playing 75, 80 percent of the time, so it’s a little bit different if they get that knocked down to 50 percent of the time,” said Westbrook. “So it’s going to be a learning process for them.”
And likely for the coach as well. The running back rotation has been a little bit more straightforward over the past couple seasons, with McCoy taking the lion’s share of the carries. This year, the puzzle is slightly more complex: How do you manage Murray’s reps over the course of the season? What’s the best way to feature Mathews? How do we make Sproles a big part of the offensive attack when there are only so many snaps to go around?
“I don’t think it’s very difficult,” said Kelly. “I think Duce always does a really good job, depending on who is available to him, in terms of rotating those guys in. The biggest thing for us is we just want to keep someone fresh in the game. So if it takes getting you out for a couple of plays, just to get you wind and get you back, it takes a toll on the defense. So you can take Ryan Mathews out and DeMarco Murray comes in; or if DeMarco Murray comes out and Darren Sproles comes in. That’s kind of what we have been trying to build towards here and those three guys obviously give us the opportunity to do that.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I think he’s going to be a really well-known name in Philadelphia after this year.” Eagles predict who will have a bust-out season.
“I’m excited about the hand we’re holding right now.” Billy Davis on the state of the secondary/defense heading into Week 1.
DeMarco Murray thinks it’s funny that LeSean McCoy is still talking about him and the Eagles.
Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn talk about Byron Maxwell and the secondary.
Josh talked to Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to get a feel for the Eagles’ Week 1 opponent.
Eric Rowe talks about the challenge of studying three different positions at once.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Domo talked to an NFC scout to get his take on the Eagles’ roster, position by position. Here’s part of what he said about the receivers.
“Agholor is electric as soon as the ball touches his hands. In my mind, he’s better – or at least soon will be better – than [Jeremy] Maclin. I don’t know if his hands are as good as Maclin’s. But as soon as Agholor touches the ball, he is electric in what he can do with it after the catch. He just has a knack for avoiding what’s coming at him. He almost always makes that first guy miss.
“I’m not a big fan of Cooper’s. He’s a good blocker for a wide receiver. But he’s got bad hands. He always jumps to catch the ball. Double-catches a lot of balls. Seldom catches a ball cleanly. They have better players than him that catch the ball better than he does. Austin is a much better player. You can look at Austin’s age and injury history and say that works against him. But he’s extremely dependable. I think he’s going to be a bigger part of that offense than people think right now, particularly with an accurate guy like Bradford at quarterback.”
Jimmy Kempski offers his season prediction.
The Eagles have a chance to do something special this season. They have the best trio of running backs in the NFL, elite talent at the three most important spots along the OL, an overwhelming number of options in the passing game, pass rushers in numbers, a stingy run D, a very young and talented front seven, an improved secondary, and the best special teams unit in the league.
However, in the NFL, you either have a quarterback or you don’t, and if you don’t you have no chance. Sam Bradford looked incredible during the preseason, but will still have to prove he can do it in the games that matter. Obviously, he will also have to stay healthy if the Eagles are to have Super Bowl aspirations. But certainly, the Eagles have surrounded Bradford with enough talent to make some noise this season.
The Eagles play in a weak division and will face a schedule in which their opponents had a combined record of 121-134-1 in 2014. I see an 11-5 finish, an NFC East crown and one playoff win.
Kelly speaks at 11:45 before practice.